This past weekend, the eastern authority in Libya put into place a ban preventing women under the age of 60 from traveling abroad without male guardianship on all transportation including air, land, or sea. The ban is said not to be related to religious ideology but rather put in place for “national security reasons.”
In a TV interview, eastern Libyan Chief of Staff Abdulrazzak al-Naduri confirmed the ban, stating that women involved in social activist groups were being turned into spies for foreign nations during their travels abroad. This ban has already been implemented in the east, starting in La Braq international airport in al-Baida, while it had not yet been approved by Parliament. This ban has increased tensions in dealing with great political unrest in the nation.
Following the 2011 revolution which overthrew longtime leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, multiple governments attempted to take control of the country. The Government of the National Accord, led by Prime Minister Fayez Serraj, is based in Tripoli and has the backing of the U.N. They are also the only government recognized on an international platform. The eastern government which put forth this ban is a military government led by al-Nadhouri and overseen by prominent military general Khalifa Haftar. The eastern military government presents itself as a “secular, civil society-based successor to the transition government” that formed following the revolution, and was elected democratically in 2014.
However, critics of the ban and the eastern authority have drawn comparisons between the government of another country, such as Saudi Arabia which are well known for their restrictive laws regarding women. How this ban will affect the tenuous relationship between the rival governments is still unclear.
The ban has caused deep outrage across Libya. Many took to social media to speak out against the ban. Activist Imam Bugaighis made his voice known, tweeting, “It is ridiculous that in 2017 we discuss if it is OK for women under 60 years to travel without a guardian male who might be 20.” Civil rights groups have also shared their opinions. Zahra’ Langhi, director and co-founder of the Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace, called the ban “appalling.” A public statement was shared by this group, in conjunction with Human Rights Defenders Centre, asking for the “immediate withdrawal of this controversial decision,” as it goes directly against to stabilize the nation. Currently, action is being taken within Libya to permanently stop this ban from taking permanent effect. As of February 22, according to the BBC, it was announced that the ban had been frozen. Abit Mneina, the director of East Libya’s civil society commission, said that officials had agreed to freeze the ban and carry out a review to ensure the ban that does not violate the rights of any citizens. She is quoted as saying, “I think we are headed on the path of it getting cancelled. We said that if it is not cancelled we are already preparing a legal statement that will be taken to court.”
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